According to Lynn, the bouncy and pacy nature of pitches in Australia, where the T20 World Cup will be held this year, would suit Malik. The Jammu & Kashmir seamer debuted for Sunrisers Hyderabad towards the end of IPL 2021 and instantly rattled batters and impressed Indian selectors, who added him as a net bowler for the 2021 T20 World Cup which was held in the UAE.
Lynn feels Malik is now ready to be part of the squad.
“From the outside looking in, definitely,” Lynn said on T20 Time Out after Malik’s maiden five-for dismantled Gujarat Titans’ batting, before Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan created their own magic to stun Sunrisers at the Wankhede stadium. “I will factor the wickets are bouncy here in Australia and you need I suppose that youth and just that guys haven’t played against it. You keep going back to whom you drop because it is such a formidable [bowling] line-up, but would love to see this guy in the World Cup. He’s going to take the world by the storm if he does get a chance at the international level. It is lucky that I am not a selector for India.”
Malik’s figures of 5 for 25 are the second-best by an uncapped Indian seamer in the IPL. According to ESPNcricinfo’s Smart Stats, his five wickets were worth almost eight, and his bowling impact of 167.36 is the highest ever for a bowler in an IPL match.
Raw pace remains Malik’s weapon as he consistently delivers 145-plus kph speeds, including crossing the 150-barrier frequently. Such high pace, Vettori pointed out, is rare and makes every ball an event.
“That pace generates anxiety among batters and not just tailenders, it’s all batters,” Vettori said. “We don’t often see bowlers get around the 153-154 mark. That’s exceptional pace, that’s a rarity that we haven’t seen I suppose consistently since the likes of [Brett] Lee, Shoaib Akhtar or Shaun Tait. So to see that is a huge part of the game now. You can see the excitement factor, brings a bit of X-factor.”
In the early matches this IPL, Malik was utilised during the powerplay where he erred in the lengths and went for runs. Sunrisers changed their approach quickly and started utilising Malik solely in the middle overs (7-16) where batting teams are starting to tilt the balance. But Sunrisers have not asked Malik to compromise on his pace. With the help of Sunrisers’ captain Kane Williamson, who has set smart fields including having two fielders virtually straight behind the keeper to pouch top edges, Malik has steadily become more accurate. On Wednesday, he showed his bowling smarts against Titans’ captain Hardik Pandya.
In the teams’ first contest this season, Hardik had been hit on the helmet first ball by Malik. Pandya shooed away the Titans’ physio and responded to Malik’s aggression with equally aggressive batting. Back then, Malik got carried away pitching fuller and shorter. On Wednesday, though, Malik again roughed up Pandya with a short-of-length delivery that hit the Titans skipper on the shoulder. Once again, Pandya sent back the physio who was rushing in. Next ball was in the slot, which Pandya timed nicely for a four. Soon, Malik would return to challenge Pandya’s ego by bowling short and sucking him into playing a pull which was caught easily at fine third man. Having already sent Shubman Gill’s stumps flying, Malik would have fun with the rest of the Titans batting order.
A smarter and more accurate Malik, Lynn said, would be a dangerous proposition for batters. “The fact that he’s learning quickly as well is probably (what) impressed me more than anything. He has always got that raw pace, but it is all about that cricket IQ now which is developing every game and he is very, very impressive.”
According to Vettori, the Indian team management as well as the national selectors need to quickly manage Malik to safeguard his unique talent.
“Potentially. It might be the best thing for him coming under the umbrella of the BCCI or the NCA, and they can manage his workloads, because there is a temptation for a player of his pace to keep bowling. I am reflecting on my conversation with Shane Bond and the fact that he thought the more you bowled, the slower you got.
“In the subcontinent, you are used as a net bowler, you are going on tours and things like that. So the workload could get a bit much. This is a gem here and it’s just how it’s looked after in the next couple of years for Indian cricket and how to get the best out of him.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo